Highlands Oncology Group eyes Springdale for its third cancer center

by Kim Souza ([email protected]) 2,198 views 

Highlands Oncology Group is bursting at the seams in its Fayetteville cancer treatment center as the region’s population continues to grow beyond 500,000. Need for additional space has prompted the group to invest in a second location in Washington County with a new center coming to Springdale by 2020.

The group said it’s under contract to purchase eight acres located in the new Park Plaza development off the Don Tyson Parkway exit of Interstate 49. The location is almost half way between the North Hills Clinic in Fayetteville and the newer location in Rogers, just north of Pinnacle Hills.

“The announcement of expansion in Washington County couldn’t come soon enough,” said Kathey Rhoads, chief operating officer for HOG. “We have long ago outgrown our space at the North Hills clinic. The second location will also allow for future growth as the demand for cancer care services continues.”

Last year the two clinics saw 13,445 patients.

“Our Fayetteville clinic has been beyond capacity for several years,” Rhoads told Talk Business & Politics. “We have off-sited departments such as administration, switchboard, new patient coordinators, multidisciplinary clinic and lung cancer screening as well as massage, PT & OT over the last couple of years to take stress off the clinic. The location of the new clinic in Springdale will certainly be a convenience for many patients either in the Springdale community or coming from western Washington and Benton counties. Our Benton County center is almost at capacity.”

Highlands plans to begin construction on the new Springdale cancer center this fall with completion expected in 2020. The group declined to provide financial information about the investment. Once the Springdale center is complete the group said it will remodel the North Hills facility in Fayetteville. The Fayetteville center opened in 2001. The group originated in 1996 with medical oncologists Dr. Thaddeus Beck, Dr. Daniel Bradford and Dr. Malcolm Hayward.

Highlands said the new clinic will provide cancer care for local residents who don’t wish to travel outside the region. The Fayetteville and Rogers locations offer a range of chemotherapy treatments for all types of cancer along with ancillary services. The group said it is evaluating the services that will be offered at the new Springdale location. The group has grown to employ more than 350 people, including 16 physicians. The group declined to say how many additional staff will be added for the new Springdale center.

Rhoads said HOG will need to recruit new physicians and create net new jobs for Northwest Arkansas. Some employees will move from the Fayetteville location to Springdale. The physicians already have a set clinic rotation schedule and that will change slightly to include the new location.

Springdale Mayor Doug Spouse said the city is excited to see Highlands locate a new center on the heels of the collaboration of Northwest Health with Mayo Clinic, Mercy’s new expanded project and the opening of Arkansas Children’s Hospital.

“This bodes so well for the city and people of Springdale, as it’s not only about economic development, but also quality of life,” Spouse said.

The American Cancer Society forecasts 1.735 million new cancer cases will be diagnosed in 2018. In Arkansas, 16,130 people will hear the words “you have cancer” from their doctors this year. Because of advances in cancer treatment drugs and other protocol including early diagnosis the five-year survival rate for all cancer combined increased 20% among whites and 24% among blacks, according to the American Cancer Society.

In Arkansas there will be an estimated 2,720 new cases of lung cancer diagnosed this year along with 2,160 cases of breast cancer,1,340 news cases of colon cancer, 1,260 new cases of prostate and 650 new cases of skin melanoma. While battling their cancer, another 6,910 Arkansans will die of cancer-related deaths this year. The majority of them have lung cancer (2,130), with 600 deaths from colon cancer and 410 related to metastatic breast cancer. Another 430 Arkansas will die from pancreas cancer and 190 from brain cancer.

Highlands said its focus is offering access to all the resources cancer patients need from traditional protocol treatments for early stage cancers and clinical trials for late stage cancers. Dr. Beck told Talk Business & Politics last year the group is using IBM Watson to screen medical patient records and match them to various drug trials across the country.

Beck said there is no need for local residents to travel to M.D. Anderson in Houston or the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota or Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centers in the Northeast because Highlands collaborates and participates in research trials with the larger institutions. Beck is on the committee that oversees Highlands Oncology’s accredited Breast Center and he also oversees Highlands’ research endeavors.

“The advantage for Highlands working with the same compounds and being in the investigator meetings with institutions like M.D. Anderson and Mayo is that everyone is working on the same development. The internet has harmonized the way treatment takes place,” Beck said.

Beck has been treating cancer for 33 years and the changes in the business continue to amaze him. He said some of the new breast cancer treatments are in pill form and more importantly treatment is no longer one size fits all. He said oncologists study the tumor, and that, more than anything, dictates treatment protocol.

“It’s a very exciting time in cancer research. That’s why I don’t mind spending my weekends and evenings focusing on clinical trial research,” Beck said.